Eric D. Snider

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Movie Review

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

by Eric D. Snider

Grade: C

Released: December 21, 2007

 

Directed by:

Cast:

If you walked out of "National Treasure" three years ago thinking, "OK, that was kind of fun but it sure was ridiculous," then I'm here to tell you, you ain't seen nothin' yet. The sequel, "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," is twice as ridiculous and half as fun. It's based on a flimsy premise, and then that flimsy premise is abused and twisted to the point that you wonder how anyone involved could possibly have thought what they were doing was coherent.

It goes like this. Noted treasure hunter and historian Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) and his father Patrick (Jon Voight) are very proud of Patrick's great-grandfather, Thomas Gates, who helped foil a Confederate plot just after the Civil War. Imagine their horror, then, when a mysterious fellow named Mitch Wilkinson (Ed Harris) shows up with one of the famous missing pages from John Wilkes Booth's diary, and that page seems to implicate old Grandpa Gates in the conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln!

Patrick is despondent. Ben is furious and disbelieving. He must clear his great-great-grandfather's name. He must! Why, if schoolchildren grew up thinking Thomas Gates was a conspirator in the Lincoln assassination, that would be ... well, it would be taking place in a parallel universe. No one in this universe knows any name other than Booth's when it comes to the Lincoln assassination.

The film tries to make us forget that. There's one funny (but ridiculous) moment where a little boy, having heard the news about ol' Thomas Gates, confronts Ben about it on the White House lawn. ("See?!" the movie seems to say. "Ben's life is being ruined already!!") In another scene, Ben mentions how Samuel Mudd, the doctor who provided assistance to the injured Booth, still lives in infamy in the expression "his name is mud." Surely we do not want such a fate to befall the Gates family! Fine, except that five seconds of Googling yields the fact that "his name is mud" pre-dates the Lincoln assassination by at least 45 years and has no connection whatsoever to Samuel Mudd.

So already I am not terribly invested in Ben Gates' insane quest to clear his forefather's name. Maybe he was a Booth conspirator. Maybe he wasn't. Who cares? I promise you, the answer is no one.

But the movie takes it even further. Ben's method of proving Thomas Gates' innocence is to prove why his name was really on that diary page: He was helping the Union find a hidden treasure before the Confederacy did, to prevent it from falling into Rebel hands. If Ben can follow the clues to this treasure, it will prove his great-great-grandfather was innocent!

Did you catch that? Do you see the connection between finding the treasure and proving Thomas Gates was not a Booth cohort? Neither do I. But the movie is convinced that it's a simple "if/then" statement, that all Ben has to do is get a picture on the front page of the paper of him standing next to a pile of gold and everything will be settled.

Ben makes a lot of crazy assumptions. He and his assistant Riley (Justin Bartha), the one who has the funny one-liners, find a clue suggesting the Statue of Liberty replica in Paris. They go all the way to Paris and use a remote-control helicopter with a camera attached to it to fly up and read the statue's inscription -- rather than, say, looking it up on the Internet. From there Ben leaps to the conclusion that since "twin" and "resolute" both appear in the inscription, that must mean that additional clues are hidden inside the so-called "resolute desks" that sit in the queen's office at Buckingham Palace and the Oval Office at the White House. I mean, what else could a veiled, cryptic message -- in French, which Ben does not speak -- possibly mean?

When Ben needs to take a photo of something but his cell phone's camera won't work, he simply holds the item up while running a red light in London, then has Riley hack into London's computer system to retrieve the picture that the traffic camera took.

Foreseeing the audience's complaints that Ben behaves recklessly and implausibly, the film has his estranged girlfriend Abigail (Diane Kruger) cite it as one of her beefs with him. She doesn't like how he always assumes things that, yes, turn out to be true, but that he had no logical reason to assume. It's a fair complaint.

But you know what, movie? Acknowledging the outrageous flaws in your main character does not make them OK. In a way it's worse. You're basically saying, "Yes, we realize none of this makes any sense. But fixing it would have been too hard, and we're really not that concerned."

The screenplay is by husband-and-wife team Cormac and Marianne Wibberley (credited, too cutely, as just "The Wibberleys"), who previously had a hand in such unfortunate endeavors as "I Spy," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," "Bad Boys II," "The Shaggy Dog," and the first "National Treasure" -- which, looking at that list, appears to be the best thing they've ever done. They are reunited here with director Jon Turteltaub, still an enthusiastic proponent of daffy action sequences and cheerful nonsense.

Helen Mirren is in the film as Ben's mother, Patrick's ex-wife. She is an expert in pre-Columbian American languages. Bruce Greenwood is in the film as the current U.S. president, his name never given. He is a fan of American history and is gullible enough to be led into a tunnel under Mount Vernon by Ben. I could sit here all day and tell you the goofy things that happen in this movie, but I suspect you'll enjoy it more (or not) if you see for yourself.

Grade: C

Rated PG, general action violence

2 hrs., 4 min.

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This item has 41 comments

  1. Brad says:

    I found the movie entertaining in its silliness, but even if I hadn't been caught up in its nonsense, it still would've been a good time at the movies due to the cartoon short that showed ahead of it. (I presume it's part of the deal for everyone, not just certain theaters or locales.) I haven't really cared for Disney's animation in several years, so I was expecting this Goofy (as in starring) short to be lame at best, but I found myself laughing aloud.

    I'm surprised to not see it mentioned, which is why I wonder if it didn't show with all copies.

  2. Garret says:

    I saw the short and it was better than the film! I wish I had saved the twenty bucks for me and my wife to go for a better film.

  3. Trevor says:

    That was a Great Movie I thought it was quite interesting but I still agree that the first one is Better.

  4. barbara says:

    LIGHTEN UP FOLKS!

    this is only supposed to be entertaining.....fun sat.nite out with the kids or your girlfriend...not factually correct or remotely close. when we were kids we watched tom and jerry do things we knew wern't possible...we called it entertainment.

    If you want reality, replay the planes smashing into the twin towers.

    jeezzzfolks lighten up. enjoy your down time.

  5. old fashioned mom says:

    I agree, lighten up. Kids are exposed to so much reality at such a young age we have to have some fun. I grew up loving the shaggy dog. I look forward to watching this silly and unrealistic movie with my children on Christmas eve as a family. (the way the movie was probably intended to be seen.

  6. Lotus says:

    The plot was confusing, and I felt some scenes in the movie were irrelevent to the main point. Although, it was okay. I agree, the first one was much better.

  7. Max says:

    barbara ---

    i disagree with the majority of your incoherent rambling, but one thing truly sticks out in my mind

    why the hell would your example be 9-11?


    retard.

  8. Van says:

    Farfetched,....OK, confusing, ...yes, at times. But, I also found it very entertaining. It moves quickly, and is funny, witty, and tense at the correct times. Plus, it's a family movie. My 12 year old daughter and her friends all thought it was "Great!!"

    Also, as a social studied teacher, I applaud films that generate interest in history.

    Yes, as I said, it is farfetched. But doesn't that apply to about 90% of the hit movies we are offered. As stated before, watch it, relax, and enjoy. Get your mind off everyday stuff and try to figure what the movie is going to do next.

    Bottom line: it's fun, so enjoy!

  9. barbara says:

    max-

    so you disagree with a post you didn't understand? whaa???

    the majority of my coherant post was to eric's repeated statements about the implausable plot.

    it is a movie made for entertainment....

    entertainment for me is a way to escape reality.

    reality is scary...like the bombing of the twin towers.

    do you need to agree with anything i say? no.

    i'm sorry you needed to call me retard.... or was that your signature line?

  10. Wombatty says:

    Yes, 9-11 is relevant to EVERYthing you find offensive. I mean, I trot that old chestnut out whenever anyone cuts in front of me at the bank ("The terrorists have won if you don't get behind me, mister!") or any time I am losing an arguement: ("You may think that just because I'm not as well versed in Antebellum Architecture as you are that you are smarter than me, but let me tell you, if there's one thing we've learned from 9-11, it's that the world is full of hate, and you my friend are a prime example!")

    See how that works? Neat.

  11. Max says:

    I apoligize for everything, Barbara

    i just was kinda ticked off after wasting my money on that movie
    sorry

  12. barbara says:

    apology accepted...peace on earth.

  13. Thomas says:

    Reading the above comments between Barbara and Max made this

    Christmas morning worthwhile. I really like Barbara and she makes

    good sense, so I'll go see the movie at 1 p.m. today. Tom and Jerry

    and the Shaggy Dog were my favorites too. The twin towers bombing

    will never be erased from my mind, as reality is what it is. It gave

    us the opportunity to stop international terrorists, before it got it's

    foothold in Iraq. Maybe "Ben" will go there someday and help us out.

    Merry Christmas Everyone.

  14. Cameron says:

    Thomas -- what??

    Max -- you're apologizing?

    Barbara -- WHAT??!?

    Is it just me, or does incoherence currently reign supreme on this thread?

    I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

  15. Leah Jane says:

    I was almost forced to see this with my friends, but by the grace of my own stubborn attitude and hatred of Cage's hair, I saw Enchanted instead, which I loved, even with that bland animation. What I find funny is that Eric said this movie is incoherent, and now these comments on the movie are incoherent!

    And what

    Is with

    Typing like this? This ain't poetry people!

  16. Craig says:

    My only problem with a silly movie is the fact that there were actually people in the audience that left too much of their brains at the door and believed that the clues and items in the movie were actually true. ~sigh~ Long live the public education system!! ;)

  17. Turkey says:

    Yeah, here in our nation's capital we get more than a few tourists who ask if "National Treasure" was based in reality. It doesn't help when they're selling the movie at the National Archives.

  18. Michelle says:

    I am excited to go see this movie.

    And I think that Eric may be getting history mixed up with fiction.

    Just because all those things in the movie don't really connect to what happened in histroy, doesn't make it any less good. (Unless it is suppose to be the same as history, and this movie clearly isn't.)

  19. Karen says:

    I thought it was particularly amusing that the Olmecs (who died out in Mexico in 400 BC), the Lakota (a subset of the Souix in the Datokas) and the Seminoles (in Florida) are all lumped together as the "Native Americans" whose treasure he's hunting for.

  20. Christina D says:

    Just because a movie is a "family movie" doesn't mean it should be OK that it's really dumb.

    "Oh, but it's a family movie", you say "So critics should like it, and so should everyone else, despite the fact that it makes no sense. Heck, as long as my 5 year old can sit through it, it should be heralded as awesome!"

    No no no, you sad sad souls. Go rent something that's worth watching, like any Pixar movie that is out there. Don't see stuff like this then say "Lighten up, it's a family move and so leave it alone." When you compare stuff like this to Pixar, or one of the good Disney movies, there's no excuse good enough.

    It's like comparing "Hannah Montana" to Gladys Knight and then saying that "Hannah Montana" is really good because she sings kids songs. She still sucks at singing and there's no getting past that.

    Just my opinion. :-P

  21. mommy says:

    I do understand Eric's complaints. There are leaps of logic. I guess some of us are just so happy to see a movie with little swearing, skin generally covered and blood not thrown around like candy in a parade to make everyone happy.

    I just wish movie makers would pay attention to a large group of movie goers who would appretiate a family movie without fart jokes, with perhaps a little intelligence and humor...entertainment without the yuck.

  22. Jeff Rankin says:

    Eric,

    You are right on. An unabashed fan of the original film, I was completely prepared to suspend disbelief again and enjoy a fun holiday thriller, particularly since I'm a longtime student of the Lincoln assassination. But my hopes were dashed five minutes into this disaster. Not only did the plot become increasingly and unbearably ludicrous, but all the actors seemed to be phoning in their performances. Having Gates use a traffic camera to photograph the ancient artifact was the last straw for me. I did appreciate the little kid's insider reference to Otto Eisenschimel's book at the Easter egg roll, but that was about it. The ridiculous sequence in the City of Gold--a blatant ripoff of the first film's climax--made me wonder if the writers' strike hadn't actually started a year ago.

  23. Momphy says:

    Cameron, I'm with you. The ridiculous comments in this thread probably make this horrible movie seem logical by comparison.

    And why Max would suddenly be swayed by Barbara's reply makes almost less sense than Thomas being swayed to see this movie because he liked Tom and Jerry as a child.... HUH?

    Explaining that 9-11 comment by saying "reality is scary" sounds like the ramblings of an insane asylum patient. Reality can be scary, but you're only focusing on one horrible event, that event doesn't define "reality".

    I think I'm losing my mind...

  24. barbara says:

    momphy,
    this will be my last post/opinion regarding moviegoing as an entertainment venue.

    i enjoyed the movie.

    the comment about 9/11 was an example of scary reality. there are many.

    you're losing your mind and cameron is taking crazy pills....

    we get a computer between two people and "let the name calling begin"

    thanks for reminding me of how I don't want to act....

  25. Lowdogg says:

    My major issue with the movie is Nicholas Cage's hair- what is going on there?

  26. Alice Cullen says:

    True, it was not as good as the first, but it's still fun. It's a movie that makes you think, which I like.

    Oh, What was up with Nicholas Cage's weird acting? Did anyone else find that he was very "spazzy" at points?

  27. charlie says:

    Alice - Yes! It was bizarre!
    Not an amazingly-made movie, but the humor was all right (I like sarcasm, though). The traffic camera thing was...well, different, I won't say it was terrible. Riley's hacking skills bothered me, though. I know there are people out there who do in fact have the ability to hack into a traffic camera, but something tells me they're more likely to be found in their hacker-lairs than traipsing about the world in search of clues. The movie was not believable, but I don't think that was really the point. It was fun, and funny, and even funnier because you got to laugh at the movie itself! Too trashy for Helen Mirren, probably, but she certainly brightened up the movie a bit.

    My only other question - Why on earth would Abigail have left what's-his-name?? Is he no longer super-rich? If she's going to be the stock really-smart-helpful-guide-woman, she should at least behave like one.

  28. cinncinnatus says:

    Alice,

    Have you never seen a movie with Nicholas Cage in it before?

  29. Momphy says:

    Barbara,

    I never called you names, it's just getting old when people use 9-11 as the ultimate example out of nowhere to drive a point home. That has absolutely no place in the comments section of this lame movie.

    That's like me reviewing National Treasure part 1 and saying "this movie wasn't very good, but compared to the holocaust it was pretty fun".

  30. snakeboa41 says:

    ok so the movie wasn't as good as the first but it was ok . the only thing i thought was to much was there will be another movie (the obvious reference to page 47 in the presidents book

  31. mom says:

    Momphy-

    You need to re-read the thread. You are making Barbara's point.

  32. Pat says:

    Eric and half these commentors are obsessed with what's realistic and what's ridiculous. God, I can't wait to go read the review for Jumpers, Indiana Jones and Speed Racer.

  33. Timmy Tooth says:

    Since Barbara is no longer replying, I think I'll take this opportunity to severely trash her now!

    Just kidding!


    PS a 9-11 to you all!

  34. Sammy says:

    You guys are fighting over a movie? I must have missed something... Barbara made her point when she wrote about 9-11 some people disagree some don't. Who cares?? This is supposed to be ratings for the movie not to pock on someones opinion!! You all need to read all of the reviews from the top to the bottom and laugh at what you guys are writing and saying. I thought the movie was very good and brought out some good points. Yes, it was kind of confusing at parts but yes, it was also a fun way to spend my night. Everyone needs to relax here and act like their age and not be rude to people they don't even know.

  35. Joe says:

    TEN REASONS NOT TO SEE THE MOVIE
    1. Nicolas Cage is not that great of an actor.
    2. Its historically incorrect
    3. Nicolas Cage needs a new barber
    4. It is a confusing story line
    5. Nicolas Cage needs acting lessons(not that it would help)
    6. Its ridiculous
    7. Nicolas Cage is over rated (and hes not even rated that high)
    8. If you've seen the first one than you already know whats going to happen(Ben will hear about a treasure, he will find some clues, run into some greedy bad guys who want the treasure, get in trouble with the law, nearly lose all hope, feel sorry for himself, find the treasure and lives happily ever after with is girl friend.)
    9. Nicolas Cage needs to retire.
    10. Going to the movie will cost more than buying the movie when in come out on DVD in about a year. (And believe me its worth the wait to save a few bucks if you really must see it.)

    TEN REASONS TO SEE THE MOVIE
    1. So you can make fun of Nicolas Cage's poor acting.
    2. So you have something to do on a Saturday night.
    3. So you can make fun of Nicolas Cage's bad hair style.
    4. So you can occupy yourself in church the next day trying to figure out story line.
    5. So you can appreciate those actors who really know how to act even more.
    6. So you can appreciate movies worth watching even more.
    7. So you have an excuse to eat junk food even though your on a diet. (i.e popcorn and pop at the movie)
    8. So you can refresh your memory of how the first movie went. (Not that you would want to.)
    9. So you can think of more bad things to say about Nicolas Cage.
    10. So you have something to do with your extra cash.

  36. Joe says:

    Sammy says: "Everyone needs to relax here and act like their age and not be rude to people they don't even know."

    Of course for all they know it could be there neighbor, or relative their bashing.

  37. Sammy says:

    Exactly what I was thinking Joe

  38. Steve says:

    As exemplified so well here, a common defense of a bad movie is to say, "well, it's not supposed to be real, so you shouldn't criticize the unrealistic elements." I will attempt to explain why I think that this defense is invalid. Actually, J.R.R. Tolkien put it very well when explaining his thoughts on the phrase "suspension of disbelief." You will note by the lack of quotation marks in the following that I am paraphrasing. Tolkien, who was specifically addressing faerie stories, said that you can create whatever world you want with whatever rules you want, as long as you are then consistent with the rules you have set up. My translation of that is that I can accept any premise, however implausible, if the story remains consistent with that premise. An example of where this is not followed is the recent Transformers movie. The premise is that there is an advanced race of transforming alien robots who can drive or fly at incredible speeds, transform into humanoid form without slowing down, and use their momentum to attack an opponent with more grace than Jet Li. Then the stupid move tries to tell me that these very same robots have no more poise than the three stooges while they are waiting for a kid to find some old glasses. Do you see the difference here between an implausible premise (which I will readily accept) and inconsistency with a premise? Another example is the second Spider-Man movie. I accept the premise that a spider transferred its abilities to Peter Parker simply by biting him. I also accept the premise that Octavius is a brilliant scientist. But I do not accept that a brilliant scientist would put such a critical component of his invention as the "inhibitor chip" in a location where it is exposed and vulnerable. If a well-meaning lab assistant had patted him on the back to wish him good luck, it may have been enough to disable this critical component. The great thing about the Spider-Man movie is that everything else in the movie is so well-done that I can overlook not only this critical oversight by Doctor Octavius, but I can even forgive being bludgeoned by the beginning of the film with how sucky Peter's life is.

    In summary, you can't counter the complaint,"No one in that situation would ever do that" by pointing out that the situation could never exist anyway. After all, the great success of the Lord of the Rings story is largely due to the accurate portrayal of real human emotion despite its fantastic setting (and most of the characters not being human at all).

  39. laura says:

    that was intresting...

  40. Daniel says:

    The longer the negative comment, the less rounded education and practical experience of that person. It's clear they have no concept of imagination and tolerance of other's opinions. Putting it mildly, they are hung up on themselves.

    The bottom line......... if it wasn't for blockbuster movies that draw massive crowds and DVD sales as in this case ..... film makers would NOT be able to fund flicks that draw few at the box office but yet gather up meaningless indicators of achievement awards.

  41. Jeremy says:

    Personally, I love the historical premise even if it is inaccurate. Movies like this help spawn the interest of people from children to adults in history and the romance found in digging into our past. I guess some people are just too harsh of film critics to see the point.

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